Fresh Ground Stories is an open-mic event for telling true, personal stories on stage at Roy Street Coffee & Tea. Each month we choose a different theme and the stories should in some way reflect the theme.
Shows are scheduled once a month, hosted at Roy St Coffee and Tea on the 4th Thursday of the month at 7pm (exceptions – Nov and December – when we will go on either the 2nd or 3rd Thursday to avoid the holidays).
We hope you plan on bring a story – all potential storytellers will put their name in a Mr. Coffee carafe and I draw names as we go.
The show is about 90 minutes so we can’t guarantee that everyone will get to share. But if you don’t get to tell your story for one theme you can probably rework it into another. Themes will be broad.
Everyone is welcome to just come and listen, but if you want to tell a story (and I hope you do) here’s what you need to know.
1. Story must be true and have happened to you. Also, the story should mean something to you. We’re looking for stories that tell us something about yourself. Not every story has a moral but there should be something in there that tells us why the story is important to you and maybe how its shaped your life or your beliefs about something. It doesn’t have to be serious. Funny stories can be just as meaningful as sad ones.
2. Keep it under 8 minutes. Shorter is better so we can get more people onstage. We run from 7:00-8:30 and I try to end it on time.
3. No notes onstage. Trust me, it’s always better to tell the story naturally. Practice in your living room, the car, the bathroom, wherever. Tell it to friends and family, or that guy on the bus. Whatever it takes to remember it.
4. Practice out loud. It’s more helpful than running over it in your head. Also, consider timing yourself. Eight minutes is the max and if you go long I have to take time away from someone else.
5. Know your last line first. The best advice I ever got for storytelling was to know the last line of your story before you start telling it. The last line should be something that wraps everything up and gives the story meaning.
6. Sharing is more important than performing. Don’t worry about turning your story into a performance. Tell the story as if you were in the living room with friends. Great stories come from a place of humility and vulnerability. That doesn’t mean they can’t be funny and lighthearted. Most of the stories at FGS are very funny but they’re more self-deprecating than what you hear at a comedy show.
7. Dirty words and subject matter. You need to keep your story clean. We are in a public place and not everyone is there for the show. No stories about sex or genitals, and no cursing or sexual innuendo. I know that stuff is funny but it’s not worth the risk of someone in the coffee shop complaining. There are lots of other places to tell those stories and if you do a little Googling you will find them. Most other topics are fine. We’ve had stories of death, loss, suicide, heartbreak, mental illness, abortion, and human trafficking. All of these topics are fine as long as you tell them with honesty and vulnerability while leaving out your social commentary. Trust me on this. I know it feels good to end your story with a rant but that’s not what this show is for.
8. No speeches, political viewpoints or social commentary-masquerading-as-a-story. Those are all great things but FGS isn’t the place for them. We’re not a town hall meeting. If your goal is to get people to do something (tear down the government, join a church, boycott Lithuanian walnuts, etc) then my show isn’t right for you. Beliefs separate people and stories bring us together. Even if I and everyone else in the room agree with your worldview, FGS isn’t the place for telling us about it. We get enough of that on Facebook, Twitter and everywhere else on the internet. FGS is where we get to take a break from it.
9. If you put some thought into it you can tell a story about almost any subject. Choose your words carefully. I know it’s hard but it will be worth it. The audience will appreciate it and more importantly Roy Street Coffee will appreciate it. They let us use their room for free and if we upset their customers we won’t have a show anymore.
10. Stay on the stage. Please don’t leave the stage area and walk through the audience. It works in a comedy club but not at a storytelling show.
11. Don’t plug your own show, website, blog while you’re onstage. If people like your story they’ll talk to you afterward and that’s when you can give them that information.
12. Get there early to put your name in the Mr. Coffee Carafe. Use a white slip if you’ve told at FGS before or a yellow slip if you’re a first-timer.
13. Please don’t ask me if it’s ok to break one of these rules. It’s not. You can email me ahead of time if you want to make sure your story is appropriate for the show and I’ll be happy to let you know. But don’t ask me the day of the show because I don’t want to make that kind of decision on the fly.
14. Just because something isn’t listed in the rules doesn’t mean it’s ok for you to do. I have the final say in how the show is run and what I allow on stage. I really hated to write these last two rules but every now and then someone wants to argue over how I run the show so I finally had to put this stuff down in black and white. If you’re unhappy with any of these rules I will encourage you to attend one of the other wonderful storytelling shows in the area. Thanks for your cooperation.